How Grace Reigns

“Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:20-21

God’s grace is a powerful thing. It is not just some sweet idea we sing about in church. It reigns over death and it births new life. It transforms and it renews. It redeems the shameful, and it lifts heavy burdens. As we walked the sandy trash- filled paths of a squatter camp or slum called Kayasands, we prayed for God to show us whom He wanted us to talk with, and we came into the camp behind the Lord who had gone before us, bearing His light and bringing His grace.

We talked and prayed with 10 people, 4 of which prayed to receive Christ. Statistically, out of those 10, two of them had HIV, and at least one of them will be dead in the next few months. Knowing the reality of this difficult fact, our hearts are so thankful that we were given the opportunity to share Jesus with these 10.

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One man, Paul was sitting in front of a shop that sold sodas and snacks. He had been sitting with his friend and they were drinking beer, a common pastime in the camps for the men who do not have jobs. We began to share with him about Jesus, and we discovered that he actually knew much about the Bible. In fact, he had read from Genesis to Revelation, and he had once thought that he would be a preacher. However, he shared that at some point he had done something that made him think he was no longer able to become a preacher, and when he spoke of this his whole countenance changed.

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We could see the burden of shame upon him, and we told him that being perfect is not a requirement to serve God. We told him the story of the adulterous woman and he was actually very familiar with the story. However, when we got to the end and we asked him, “What did Jesus say to her?” He replied, “Go,” and then he stammered. He couldn’t remember the last part. We reminded him that Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” This man could recall so many details from this story, but yet, he was not able to recall the words, “go and sin no more.” When we explained that he had the ability to repent, to receive forgiveness, and to turn from his sins, he listened intently.

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When we asked him if he wanted to do that, he said, “Tomorrow I will.” He was in the middle of drinking a beer, and he was ashamed. He had been taught that what he was doing was shameful and would not be proper, but we insisted that this could not wait. So we pressed in a bit further, all of us feeling an earnestness about him needing the freedom from sin that Jesus offers. We talked about how Jesus takes away our shame and how there is sweet and beautiful forgiveness to be found in Him. Then, he decided that he did indeed want to be free from those burdens that had been weighing him down. And together, we prayed.

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He confessed his sins before the Lord, and he asked for forgiveness. He told God that he would flee and not return to them, and He asked the Holy Spirit to come. And when the prayer was finished, he looked up at us and smiled. Then he laughed. His whole demeanor had changed. When we asked him what he was going to do with the beer bottle, he poured it out and threw it on the ground. Then, we knew that he was a changed man. This is the power of God’s grace. It takes what was dead and it brings it to life. We know that Paul’s life is forever transformed, and that God can use this man to be a light to others.

God’s grace is no little thing. It holds the power of redemption. It takes a man’s heavy, sorrow-filled and shame-filled heart, and it cleanses, forgives, and frees.

 

 

 

 

Amazing Things

“Joshua told the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves today for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” Joshua 3:5

This morning our team discussed the parting of the Jordan River, and how Joshua and the Israelites followed God straight into the rapidly flowing and high Jordan River. God had told Joshua to have the priests take the ark and go stand in it, but Joshua told the people to believe that at the very moment their feet touched the water, it would stop flowing. And sure enough, this is what happened, and the Israelites were able to walk straight into a new land. This is what He asks of us, to follow Him step by step, sometimes into flowing rivers, and to trust Him to do amazing things.

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Today our team was able to walk in that truth as we ministered to so many people. We started our morning by laying hands on one of our own team members who had been very sick. God healed her and then he restored her strength throughout the day. We believed that this was just the beginning of His work through us for the day.

Later we went out with Impact Africa’s Baby Rescue Team. This group of women go out into the community clinics and they tell all the people sitting and waiting in the massive lines about their Baby Safes. These are safe places where moms can leave their babies to be cared for instead of abandoning them in the field, the trash, or the toilet. They also tell them about the dangers of getting abortions. Many traditional healers and witch doctors offer dangerous abortions for an expensive fee. These vulnerable women are left in desperate situations with no way to raise these children. Impact Africa tells them that they can give their child a better life, and they offer them a pathway to do it.

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After the presentation, we handed out flyers to the almost 200 people that waited in line to see the doctors. Then, we gave out baby packs to expecting moms or moms with newborns. These packs have diapers and other goodies to assist them. Then we had an opportunity to talk to them individually and to pray for them.

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They told us their worries and their concerns. Some were afraid of childbirth and some were worried about working afterward. Many of them were foreigners and they were sad at having to give birth to their children away from their homes. We were able to listen, share stories about Mary and Joseph, read them Psalm 139, share our own stories of difficult pregnancies, talk to them about Jesus and pray for them.

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In the afternoon, we walked through the slum area of Deipsloot again. We walked, expecting God to show us who He wanted us to share with. One woman that we talked with was a churchgoer. When we asked her more about how she knows Jesus, it seemed that she really only knew that church was a good place to go, but she didn’t understand that Jesus really was Her Savior and the only way to God. She was eager to understand better and we taught her from the Bible. She decided she wanted to pray to become a Christ-follower, and so we prayed with her. Then, we asked God’s favor upon her and her household. We believe that a true disciple of Jesus was born today right there on her tin porch and that many others would come to understand this truth through her.

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Many more people came to know Jesus today through the work of our team and through Impact Africa staff and interns. Many others were healed. Our eyes beheld miracles of death to life, and we believe even more that amazing things really do happen when you follow Jesus step by step.

 

The Power of Living Hope

“According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” 1 Peter 1:3

Hope is a powerful thing, and so is hopelessness. Over 12 million people in South Africa live in squatter camps. They are surrounded by rich homes and beautiful landscapes, while they fight to survive in tin shanties and breathe despair. Rich Franzen, the founder of Impact Africa, is passionate about interceding and changing the trajectory of these people’s lives.DSC_0328

He shared with us a story this morning about a man who he met who was drinking and doing many things to put his life and health in danger. The man told him that it really didn’t matter because he would only live to be 30 years old anyway. So, the man figured that he should just have fun until he died. He was living in a hopeless situation, and he is not the only one. Sixty-eight percent of the world’s AIDS population lives in South Africa. Death is an early expectation.DSC_0320

Only thirty-percent of the students who begin first grade will ever graduate from high school. So, their futures are dim. However, Impact Africa is working to change that for many people. Today we visited the squatter camp called Diepsloot. It is a square mile parcel of land that the government has set aside for these low class people. Some of them are South Africans, but many have come here from countries more north in order to find work. Because Rich recognizes that formation for small children is the most effective, they have a preschool right in the squatter camp of Diepsloot. They give the children an education and meals, but more importantly, they break the cycle of hoplessness. They teach them that there is a better way, and that way is Jesus. He alone can redeem them and give them a better future. Impact Africa has three other schools like this and are working on an additional two.DSC_0266

Also, understanding that 9th grade is when most students began to drop out of school, Impact Africa works with the government-run, public schools. They are able to provide a Life Orientation class that teaches many things, such as the effect of drugs on their bodies, and they are also able to share about Jesus. Out of that ministry, they have also started a Bible study where real Christian transformation is taking place and Christian leaders are rising up.DSC_0292

Over the next week, our missions team will be visiting many of the other ministries that they have in these communities. Rich has seen so much fruit from his ministry here that breaks into the darkness and meets people right in their suffering. In fact, this is exactly what Jesus does for us. He walks right into our brokenness and offers us hope. Its what He did on the cross and its what He does every day. And God is using Impact Africa to lead the poor and the hopeless straight to Jesus. Rich believes that right here in Johannesburg, there is such an opportunity to share Christ that the harvest isn’t just ripe, rather its rotting away.DSC_0338

Pray for our team this week as we learn more about the work of Impact Africa and how we can support them well in the future.